Fatuma Kusheni, a fifty-year-old mother of seven who lives in the Yabelo district of Borena Zone, is a member of a radio listening group set up under the Christian Aid led BRACED programme.
The women come together to listen to weather forecasts and make livelihood decisions based on the climate information they receive.
We didn’t take any action based on the advice from the radio during this last drought. It was after the drought that we started to really listen and heed its advice. We are alive today by the grace of God.’
Drought returned to Ethiopia’s Borena Zone in 2015 with a vengeance.
Described as the most severe to hit the region in over half a century, it was worse than the drought that contributed to the 1984-85 Ethiopian famine that is said to have killed up to one million people.
This time, however, there was no famine, and Ethiopia’s National Meteorological Agency, which is supported by the Christian Aid led BRACED programme, played a major role in preventing disaster.
Disaster risk reduction and prevention measures, aided by the timely availability and dissemination of climate information, kept mass starvation at bay.
Information is also shared at the community level in local languages. BRACED works with local FM stations through its partnership with BBC Media Action to produce and disseminate climate information to communities that are living in high risk areas vulnerable to climate extremes, including Fatuma in the Borena zone.
In 2015, however, they did not reach a consensus. It became a challenge to get local communities to trust the NMA derived information, which correctly predicted the El-Nino drought. Traditional forecasts had served the Borena well for generations and local communities had no reason to believe this time would be different.
The Borena…have their own [forecasting] traditions. They are observing the ground, types of leaves of trees, the wind direction, the sky, and many other things.’
Deputy Director of the National Meteorological Agency of Ethiopia
Like Fatuma, many women in this group (poor, adult) were sceptical about the use of climate information before BRACED began. By the end of the programme, 26% of this group were accessing it to prepare for extreme weather events.
Making climate information useful
Today, Fatuma and the members of her radio listening group have much more confidence in the climate information being shared over the radio, and Fatuma has suggestions to make it even more useful to their pastoral lifestyle. Preparing for an impending drought means packing up entire households and moving long distances to areas where there will be pasture.
It is very hard work. If we receive information about a coming drought two to three months in advance, then we will be able to better prepare for it.’
With the support of the BRACED Programme, the NMA is developing a national framework on climate services which includes strategies for working with local communities including sharing seasonal forecasts in local languages.
As the framework rolls out, radio listening group like the one Fatuma belongs to will receive advance notice on impending droughts.
Next time El-Nino hits, Fatuma will be prepared.
Next DataStory on climate forecasting
Keeping farmers switched on
A mountaintop solar charging shop run by Tamiru Urmale and his coworkers in Konso, southern Ethiopia is helping farmers keep their phones switched on.
Ready to receive vital climate information at any time, day or night.
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